VCAT experience delays due to staff shortage, COVID-19 restrictions and the move to online systems
Renters, landlords and property managers are left waiting for disputes to be resolved at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) as the backlog of cases blows out to more than 130 per cent compared to the number of pending cases pre-pandemic, according to The Age.
Today’s Metro Property Management blog unpacks the purpose of VCAT, the residential tenancy disputes they deal with and reasons behind the increase in delayed hearings during the pandemic.
How does VCAT work and what kind of complaints run through the system?
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) deals with a range of civil disputes varying from residential tenancies to goods and services, and building and construction.
Tenancy disputes come under the Residential Tenancies List within VCAT’s range of cases.
According to VCAT the scope of residential tenancy disputes they deal with are “residential issues between renters (tenants) and rental providers (landlords), residents and owners of caravan parks or rooming houses, renters and the Director of Housing, and about specialist disability accommodation and supported residential services.”
The VCAT system is currently very clogged due to being under-resourced and the impacts of government COVID-19 restrictions. The Age reported, “Tenants Victoria and the Real Estate Institute say disputes over bonds and compensation – of which there’s at least 10,000 in the system – take months to be dealt with, or in many cases, are not given a hearing date at all.”
According to the recent VCAT Residential Tenancies List data, unpaid rent remains as one of the most common reasons leases are being terminated. This can often cause more traffic through the VCAT system, as renters and rental providers dispute unpaid rent amounts.
[Source: Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal)
Why is the Residential Tenancies List clogged and delayed?
Metro PM recently received further clarification from VCAT stating the following reasons for the delay in hearings related to tenancy disputes:
· About 10 applications a day are being received for urgent repairs
· Applications are coming in at a faster rate than they can manage/schedule
· Severe staff shortage
· 10 week time frame from application for rent arrears to hearing date
· They have a priority list – bond claims, compensation and pet applications are about 7,8 and 9 on the list (last)
· Royal assent has been completed for the interstate party legislation and that will commence on the 1st January 2022.
· Applications made without supporting documents and when it’s a requirement won’t be adjourned – they will be dismissed.
· All stakeholders mentioned mould.
· The number of applications being heard each day is less than pre-pandemic.
· More hardship claims so hearings are taking longer.
The VCAT office was also declared a COVID-19 exposure site recently, causing further delays as the tribunal closed and rescheduled majority of the cases due for hearing.
Calls for more funding into VCAT by the State Government are being made from various leaders in the real estate sector.
Metro Property Management Director, Leah Calnan shared her thoughts on what needs to be done to clear the backlog of residential tenancy cases within VCAT and improve the process going forward.
“[The tribunal] is under-resourced and needs immediate attention by the state government because it’s adversely affecting all participants – owners, tenants and property managers,” Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan said via this story reported by The Age.